As an actor on America’s third coast, I’m often asked to imagine things, places, and even whole persons in an attempt to entertain and enlighten a gathering of individuals.
Having restricted my more executable mind-play to the highly glossed boards of this city’s more endowed institutions (and those deemed worthy by the Union of Acceptable Actors), I was surprised to receive a call on my Blackberry from a Mr. Anderson Lawferson (a notorious, non-acceptable actor). I usually avoid answering calls from area codes other than 312 or 212, but something told me to not ignore the ringer this time. Let this be a lesson in trusting your instincts, folks; Anderson’s gruff, will-bleed-for-the-art honesty had me hooked the from his first sharp intake of breath. The proposition was a simple one: “Go see this Cherrywood thing and let us know if there really are 49 people in it.” I had a better idea. Being that I’m currently in the pre-Broadway tryout of Vanilla Sky: A Musical over at the Oriental, there was no way I could make it to some gas station on the North Side. I said, “Anderson, you tell me what it’s about, and I’ll just use my professional imagination to fill in the details.” He wasn’t very much help.
In any case, Cherrywood, as I see it:
Cherrywood opens in total darkness. The low rumble of approaching water, starting from the back of the “theatre,” slowly overtakes the space with a massive crash. As the lights come up, we see a haphazardly-dressed pile of what we later learn are 49, twenty-something party goers (I think the water is a metaphor for something, too).
As the everyone slowly awakens, an impromptu jug-band forms stage left to accompany the evening’s festivities (and provide appropriate foley effects). As the girls of the cast (who are all named Jane Smith) begin arranging an intricate parade of glass animals, the men of Cherrywood (Joe Smiths, all of them), begin the painstaking task of hanging a dozen or so boulders above the stage and audience.
I should note that the bevy of beautiful, non-professional actors and actresses is truly an inspiring sight. You really get the feeling –and audibly hope--that they would do anything on that stage. Harnessing Kirk Lynn’s comprehensive and detailed opus (think In Search of Lost Time sans the Proustian “moralizing”) the cast delivers at every turn. In a particularly moving exchange, a 10 person daisy-chain of bros “ice” each other using that most delicious of malt beverages.
With relationships this involving, the plot is almost secondary (something to do with fundraising to save a logging permit). Relationships come together, re-form, and fall apart as the group works itself into a frenzy of dancing, dialogue and relationships. As the party reaches its climax, one of the intoxicated Joe Smiths trip over an ottoman to reveal a mysterious buried hatch. The Joe and Jane Smiths enter the hatch to find a Frenchwoman protecting some sort of clock.
Turns out, everyone is dead and the play ends with the group gathering in a church to hug their fathers.
In the event that Vanilla Sky doesn’t transfer—who are we kidding, it will—I’ll be excited to take in a showing of Cherrywood for myself. Thank you, Anderson Lawferson, for giving me this opportunity to get back to my roots. Call again, anytime.